Receiving a wedding invite is awesome. Whether it's handwritten, a video invite, or delivered by your bestie, being invited to a wedding is super exciting. But, the term "black tie optional" might throw you for a loop. Because what does black tie optional mean in 2017?
The world of weddings can be difficult to traverse. There are many faux pas one can make when it comes to weddings. From giving your number to the best man/maid of honor you thought was single, to laughing at the wrong moment during the speeches, or accidentally stepping on the bride's train when you hug her, there are plenty of things that might go awry on the big day. Therefore, you're going to want to start the day off on the right foot and make sure you at least nail the dress code.
However, when the bride and groom (or bride and bride/groom and groom) state, "black tie optional" in their invite, this could throw a spanner in the works. Normally when a host desires their guests to assume a black tie theme, this means that guests should turn up wearing their most formal attire. Think: James Bond style suits and ties for the men and floor length ballgowns for women (or whichever floats your boat if you don't confine yourself to gender constructs).
When a wedding invitation states, "black tie optional" this puts guests in a predicament, because it basically means, "Come wearing your swankiest threads — if you want to..."
IMO, black tie optional puts guests in a dilemma; they can choose to wear their finest attire and risk looking overdressed, or they can opt out and risk looking like they didn't make the effort.
Generally speaking, weddings are formal affairs so I would suggest going down the black tie route. Personally, I always prefer to be overdressed rather than underdressed. Dressing up makes me feel elegant and chic and gives me an air of confidence, even if I know nobody at the event. However, it's worth taking into account the couple's personal style. If they are super laid back folks with a minimalist approach to fashion, their friends and family might follow suit and dress down. This could mean if you choose black tie, you'd look amazing but possibly a little OTT. On the other hand, if the couple dress up to go to the supermarket, chances are their guests will clock onto this and follow suit.
On the topic of black tie dress code for women, Vogue reports, "Consider the invitation medium. Old-school pigeon post? The thicker the card (and the more fanciful the calligraphy); the smarter the event. If it came via Facebook, you can relax a little. Don't let Paperless Post confuse you — just because the invite came over email doesn't mean it's not a floor-length dress affair." The invitation will definitely give at least an inkling into the aesthetic vibe of the wedding, which you can then use to your advantage.
At the end of the day, the couple getting married will most likely want you to feel comfortable — the clue is in the word "optional." They might prefer guests to wear black tie attire, but they've made it clear this is not mandatory and people can wear what they choose. As someone that's getting married this summer, I would certainly not want my guests to worry about what they're going to wear. I just want them to have fun and enjoy themselves.
Thus, in 2017, black tie optional means, "The loose theme is black tie, but please, wear whatever you feel comfortable in." After all, the bride(s) wants you to remember her dress, instead of wasting your energy fretting over (and later regretting) your own outfit. So relax, wear what you want, and have a blast!